Caixin
Feb 02, 2020 10:35 AM
SOCIETY & CULTURE

Coronavirus Latest (Jan. 15 - Feb. 1): China Infections Reach 14,411, Apple Closes All Mainland Stores

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Since December, health authorities in China have been grappling with an outbreak of a new coronavirus that has sickened more than 14,000 people and killed more than 300. Caixin Global will continue covering this story as it develops. Please check back regularly for updates.

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Saturday, Feb. 2, 10:00 a.m.

• By the end of Saturday, Chinese authorities had confirmed 14,411 infections, including around 2,590 new cases reported on Friday.

• The official death toll in China reached 304, up by 45 from a day earlier.

• On the Chinese mainland, suspected cases rose to nearly 19,544 on Saturday. As of Friday, 328 patients had recovered from the virus.

• Hong Kong had reported 14 cases, one more from Saturday. Macao has reported seven, and Taiwan 10.

Canada started a limited departure of diplomatic staff and dependents who have existing medical conditions or fall into other vulnerable categories. Canadian Health Minister Patty Hajdu said last week that there is no need to change their plans after the WHO declares global emergency, indicating the country would not impose a border control similar to the one the US put in place.

Compiled by Li Xin

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Saturday, Feb. 1, 6 p.m.

Australia and the U.S. increased border restrictions on Saturday, bringing the total number of countries that control the entry of Chinese citizens to 63. Spain, Sweden, Russia and the U.K. reported their first cases of coronavirus over the past two days.

Domestically, the number of confirmed cases passed 11,000. A shortage of medical supples and other resources on the front line was met with a chronic problem — the lack of efficiency and transparency of official philanthropy organizations. The Red Cross Society of China’s branches in Hubei and Wuhan were questioned about their monopoly in gathering and distributing medical supplies (link in Chinese). Meanwhile, cities near Wuhan are now at risk of becoming new epicenters.

The effects on the economy have started to show, first in the transportation and hospitality industries. China’s railway saw a sharp decline in daily passenger volumes.

China’s stock market is set to open on Monday. The country’s financial regulators aim to boost confidence in the market and offer some support measures, shelving part of the country’s long-running deleveraging campaign.

Meanwhile, panic buying is not limited to protective masks. The Xinhua News Agency and People’s Daily published a piece overnight saying a common herbal cough drop, called Shuang Huanglian (双黄连), has been identified by health authorities in Wuhan and Shanghai as inhibiting the virus. Shelves of this herbal medicine were immediately emptied both online and offline. The hasty conclusion was ridiculed by both experts and netizens. People’s Daily published (link in Chinese) a story hours later asking for caution and discouraging panic buying.

• By noon, Beijing confirmed 168 infection cases, up from 156 at the end of Friday.

• The Australian government on Saturday increased border restrictions for travelers from the Chinese mainland, following similar travel restrictions imposed by the U.S. the previous day.

• Vietnam confirmed its sixth coronavirus case on Saturday. The latest person infected, a 25-year-old, is a hotel receptionist in central Khanh Hoa province on the coast.

• Pan Gongsheng, deputy governor of the People’s Bank of China, said in an interview with the Financial Times that the central bank will inject sufficient liquidity into financial markets after they reopen on Monday.

• Apple is closing all its offices, stores and contact centers across the Chinese mainland through Feb. 9, Reuters reported. Many worry that the outbreak would impact the supply chain if employees at Foxconn and other component manufacturing hubs in China are restricted.

• Jia Guolong, chairman of Xibei Youmiancun — a major restaurant chain in China — said in an interview (link in Chinese) with China Venture that the company has temporarily suspended businesses across China due to the outbreak and that it’s getting harder to pay its 20,000 employees. Judging from the company’s current cash flow, it would be hard for it to last for another three months even if it applies for loans to pay staff, according to Jia.

• Panic buying has spread to traditional Chinese medicine. Citing a joint study, China’s official Xinhua News Agency reported Friday (link in Chinese) that Shuang Huanglian oral liquid — a common herbal treatment for fevers and coughs — could inhibit the new coronavirus. Though met with harsh skepticism online from medical experts, the finding quickly triggered a wave of panic buying and many online marketplaces have run out of the remedy.

• Central China’s Hubei province announced (link in Chinese) Friday that it will indefinitely suspend marriage registrations across the province starting from Monday.

Compiled by Timmy Shen

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Saturday, Feb. 1, noon

• Chinese authorities have confirmed at least 11,823 infections. The official death toll remained unchanged at 259.

• Hubei province reported the most cases of infection: 7,153. The provinces of Zhejiang, Guangdong and Henan were the worst hit areas besides Hubei, recording 599, 520 and 422 confirmed cases, respectively.

• Confirmed overseas cases reached 129 by 10 a.m. Beijing time, as more countries reported first infections. Spain, Sweden, Russia and the U.K. reported their first cases of coronavirus on Friday. Spain and Sweden each had one, and Russia and U.K. each had two.

• Thailand, Japan, Singapore, South Korea and Australia have been hit the hardest, with each reporting more than 10 infections. Thailand has confirmed at least 19 infection cases.

• The New England Journal of Medicine, a U.S. medical journal, published a study Friday on the first coronavirus infection in the U.S. The case highlights an experimental drug remdesivir developed by Gilead Sciences Inc. It was given to the first U.S. case whose clinical condition improved the next day, the study showed. The report also stressed the importance of close coordination between clinicians and public health authorities at all levels of government, as well as the need for rapid dissemination of clinical information related to the care of patients with this emerging infection.

China’s public continues to question alleged wrongdoing (link in Chinese) by the Red Cross Society of China’s branches in Hubei and its capital Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, over their distribution of medical supplies as some local hospitals are still suffering shortages. Wuhan city official Li Qiang said Friday that the need for medical supplies has outstripped the supply, and that the Red Cross branches need time to allocate donations with different types and standards. He also reflected on inefficient distribution.

Compiled by Timmy Shen

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Saturday, Feb. 1, 09:30 a.m.

• By the end of Friday, the official death toll from the coronavirus outbreak in China had reached 259, up from 213 a day earlier, according to the latest daily data (link in Chinese) released by the country’s top health body.

• Chinese authorities had confirmed 11,821 infections, including around 2,100 new cases reported on Friday.

• On the Chinese mainland, suspected cases rose to nearly 18,000 on Friday from over 15,200 a day earlier. As of Friday, 243 patients had recovered from the virus.

• Hong Kong had reported 13 cases, Macao seven, and Taiwan 10.

Compiled by Timmy Shen

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TREND

Saturday, Feb. 1, 7:00 a.m.

The U.S. confirmed a seventh case and imposed a travel ban

The U.S. confirmed its seventh case of coronavirus Friday. An adult male in California tested positive, according to the Santa Clara Public Health Department.

The U.S. government Friday imposed a ban on foreign nationals who have been in China within the past 14 days from entering the country, effective at 5 p.m. ET Sunday.

U.S. citizens who have been in Hubei province in the past 14 days will be subject to up to 14 days of mandatory quarantine upon return to the U.S.

• Countries controlling entry of Chinese citizens reach 62

China’s Foreign Ministry reminded Chinese citizens to make reasonable travel arrangements according to their own health conditions and be aware of entry regulations of their destination countries.

El Salvador posted blanket restrictions on people who have recently been in China.

Costa Rican officials said they will monitor transit points such as airports but for now will allow Chinese travelers to enter the country.

• Singapore confirms three new cases

The country’s Ministry of Health confirmed three new cases of coronavirus Friday, bringing the total to 16. All three of the new patients recently traveled to Wuhan.

Singapore Airlines will reduce capacity on some of its routes to mainland China in February, including flights to Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Chengdu, Xiamen and Chongqing, the carrier said.

• Major American airlines suspend flights to China

Delta, American and United will temporarily cancel all mainland China flights in response to the coronavirus outbreak, under pressure from unions representing airline employees and new warnings from public health officials, the carriers said.

• Coronavirus costs China’s service sector $144 Billion in a week

China’s coronavirus outbreak cost more than 1 trillion yuan ($144 billion) in losses to the restaurant, tourism and movie industries in seven days of the Lunar New Year holiday, economists estimated.

In the worst-case scenario, assuming the epidemic lasts longer than expected, 2020 growth could slow to 5% from 6.1% in 2019, estimated Ren Zeping, chief economist and director of the Evergrande Think Tank.

Compiled by Denise Jia

 Read More 
Coronavirus Latest (Since Feb. 1): Economy Feels the Pinch

Friday, Jan. 31, 10:00 p.m.

Today was marked by the World Health Organization’s (WHO) declaration that the coronavirus is now a global health emergency — even if critics wondered what had taken so long.

The number of confirmed cases of the new disease drew closer to 10,000 as more countries reported their first cases, and the U.S. its first human transmission.

Singapore gave short shrift to a WHO recommendation against travel restrictions when it shut its borders to Chinese passport holders, even as Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam defied calls to do the same.

Meanwhile, the Chinese public was outraged to learn (link in Chinese) of alleged wrongdoing by the Wuhan and Hubei Red Cross in handing out donations, and explosive new research on the virus raised questions of just what was known about its human spread and when.

Singapore closes borders to Chinese nationals

Chinese nationals, as well as visitors who have traveled to the Chinese mainland in the past 14 days, will not be allowed to enter or transit through Singapore starting at 11.59 p.m. on Saturday Feb. 1.

Singaporean citizens and permanent residents will be exempt, but will be forced to stay in their homes and avoid social contact for 14 days.

The announcement came hours after the World Health Organization issued a temporary recommendation advising against implementing travel restrictions on people from China.

Third Japanese evacuation flight lands in Tokyo

Japan’s foreign ministry announced that a third charter flight used to evacuate Japanese nationals from central China’s Hubei province departed Friday with 149 passengers and arrived in Tokyo.

The Prime Minister’s Office of Japan said several people on previous flights had tested positive for the new coronavirus, and that it was tightening its border starting Saturday, forbidding anyone testing positive to the pathogen from entering the country.

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• The U.K. confirmed its first two cases of coronavirus, among two members of the same family.

• The sprawling megalopolis of Chongqing, China's worst-affected city outside of Hubei, may not see its peak in new cases until April or May, an epidemiologist advising the WHO predicted. About 210,000 people traveled to the city from Wuhan for Lunar New Year.

Airbnb asked hosts in parts of China most affected by the coronavirus to help guests rearrange accommodation, while stopping short of warning customers about the disease.

• There are fears that Huanggang, a city 50 miles (80 kilometers) from the outbreak epicenter of Wuhan, may be in much worse shape than official numbers suggest. Read the dispatch from Caixin's reporters on the ground.

• Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam again dismissed calls to close Hong Kong’s borders with the mainland, and asked the city’s medical staff to reconsider any plans to strike, Bloomberg reports. She said government will quarantine tourists from Hubei province.

Tesla temporarily halted operations in its Shanghai plant at the request of the Chinese government as part of effort to curb the outbreak, MarketWatch reports.

Kimchi, the spicy, fermented Korean cabbage dish, provides no protection against the coronavirus that has so far infected people 11 in the country. So said South Korea’s Health Ministry Friday in a press release aimed at correcting misunderstandings about the disease, AP reports. The ministry recommended hand-washing.

Compiled by Flynn Murphy

Friday, Jan. 31, noon

The death toll from China’s coronavirus outbreak has reached 213.

By the end of Thursday, China had confirmed 9,720 coronavirus cases, according to the latest data released by the country’s top health body (link in Chinese). That included 1,982 new cases added over the past 24 hours.

Coronavirus has now spread to every provincial-level region in China and to 19 countries overseas. Local person-to-person transmission has been recorded in four countries outside China.

According to figures from China’s National Health Commission, 171 patients have so far recovered from the virus, and more than 100,000 are under medical observation.

Hong Kong has reported 12 cases, Macao 7, and Taiwan 9.

U.S. records its first case of person-to-person transmission

The United States has become the fourth country to record a case of the coronavirus spreading person-to-person outside China.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the patient had no history of travel to Wuhan but shared a household with another patient diagnosed with the virus 10 days ago. Both patients are in stable condition.

Illinois health officials identified the case through contact tracing, the CDC said.

Germany, Vietnam and Japan have previously reported local second-generation cases.

The head of the World Health Organization this week called cases of person-to-person spread outside China “deeply concerning” and said “they hold the potential for a much larger outbreak.”

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• The U.S. State Department upgraded its travel advice telling Americans not to travel to anywhere in China because of the coronavirus.

• A paper just published by the New England Journal of Medicine is the first to document an instance of coronavirus being spread by a person who had no symptoms of the disease, in further evidence that disease control efforts are being complicated because people may be spreading the virus without realizing it. The case was from Germany.

• Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte halted all flights to and from China and said two coronavirus patients were currently in isolation in a Rome hospital, Bloomberg reported.

• A sixth case of coronavirus was confirmed in France, according to France24.

• British researchers questioned the effectiveness of airport screening at detecting travelers who have coronavirus.

Sixty-three percent of patients with the disease could be missed at airports, according to a model built by a team at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. Preventing infected travelers from entering new places was only possible if there were virtually no asymptomatic cases, if the incubation period was short, and if the sensitivity of screening was “almost perfect.” The research has not yet been peer reviewed.

• Chinese authorities sacked a city health official who sparked public anger when she failed to answer basic questions about the health department she was running when interviewed on state television. Footage of Huanggang city health chief Tang Zhihong responding vaguely to specific questions about the outbreak there went viral Thursday (link in Chinese).

• United Airlines cut a further 332 round trips to China. A United spokesman told Caixin the company would only run four of its regular 12 daily trips from the U.S. to the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong from Feb. 9 to March 28.

Virgin Atlantic announced it would suspend some of its China flights, canceling all daily trips to Shanghai, but continuing flights to Hong Kong.

The American Airlines pilots union is suing the carrier in an effort to halt service to China, and has told members to decline flights there because of the risk posed by the coronavirus, Bloomberg reports.

Compiled by Flynn Murphy

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Friday, Jan. 31 4:35 a.m.

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coronavirus outbreak a global public health emergency. The United Nations organization made the decision at an emergency committee meeting Thursday afternoon in Geneva.

The panel’s 16 independent experts determined that the spread of the virus constitutes an international emergency. At the group’s last meeting a week ago, the committee found such a declaration to be premature.

“The main reason for this declaration is not because of what is happening in China, but because of what is happing in other countries,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

India confirmed its first coronavirus case. The patient is a student from Wuhan University, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said Thursday in a statement. More than 800 people are under observation in the state of Kerala, where the first case was found, health officials said.

India also made plans to send a plane to evacuate Indian nationals from Wuhan. The flight is awaiting permission from Chinese authorities.

The U.S. confirmed its first case of person-to-person transmission of the coronavirus. Federal health officials said the patient has been in close, regular contact with the Chicago woman who was the second confirmed case in the U.S.

The State Department said Thursday that it’s planning a second evacuation flight from Wuhan as soon as Monday.

The U.S. formed a coronavirus task force led by Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, coordinated through the National Security Council. It is composed of experts on infectious diseases and members of several government agencies.

Members of the task force have been meeting daily since Monday, and the risk of infection for Americans remains low, the White House said in a statement.

Compiled by Denise Jia

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Thursday, Jan. 30 11:00 p.m.

Philippines and Finland confirm their first cases. Singapore confirms three more, bringing the country's total to 13.

Three Japanese returnees from Wuhan tested positive (link in Chinese) for coronavirus

The three people were among 206 Japanese citizens who returned from Wuhan on a government-chartered flight to Japan on Wednesday. That brings the total number of confirmed cases in Japan to 11. Two of the three infected did not exhibit any symptoms.

Two people stayed in several Hong Kong hotels before testing positive (link in Chinese)

They were an elderly couple from Wuhan, aged 72 and 73. They flew from Wuhan to Hong Kong on Jan. 22, stayed at the W Hong Kong hotel until Tuesday, after first experiencing fevers on Jan. 25. And on Tuesday, they visited another two hotels.

Sixteen provinces halt bus transportation. Tibet became the last of China’s 31 provincial-level regions to confirm a coronavirus case. To stop the transmission across provinces as the post-Lunar New Year travel peak starts, 16 provinces and municipalities have halted bus transportation, including Beijing, Tianjin and Chongqing.

At least one doctor beaten in Wuhan. According to a post widely circulated online, the doctor, surnamed Gao, was assaulted late Wednesday by the family of a patient infected with the virus, after the patient was pronounced dead early that day.

Caixin couldn’t verify the online report, but has made a call to the hospital involved, which confirmed (link in Chinese) that at least one of its doctors was beaten.

World Health Organization (WHO) plans to meet today to discuss the coronavirus and to review its decision on whether the virus constitutes an international health emergency.

Russia plans to temporarily close its Far East border with China in a bid to prevent the spread of the virus, according to state-owned TASS news agency, citing directions from the country’s Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin.

More airlines around the world have suspended flights to China amid fears about the deadly coronavirus. Lufthansa, Swiss and Austrian Airlines were some of the latest to cancel all flights to mainland China, with their joint owner Lufthansa Group announcing on Twitter the suspension of China trips until Feb. 9.

Air Canada said Wednesday that it would suspend all direct flights to Beijing and Shanghai from Thursday until the end of February, citing advice from the Canadian government.

Ikea is temporarily shutting its China stores in response to the fast-spreading new coronavirus, the latest in a string of Western brands like Starbucks and McDonald’s that have made similar moves.

Starbucks has temporarily closed more than half of its over 4,000 stores on the Chinese mainland since Tuesday and could adjust the operating hours for remaining ones.

Social media watch: publish or perish?

On social media, a wave of questions has emerged in the last two days about a slew of papers published in top international medical journals on the virus. “Why did public health officials rush to publish papers rather than save lives when the virus is still in full swing,” asked many. Moreover, some added: “Did they hide critical knowledge about human-to-human transmission?”

Caixin found (link in Chinese) that through Jan. 30 there were already five papers about the coronavirus published in the medical journal Lancet, and two in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Those papers are detailed – backed up by more than 400 firsthand infection cases; collaborative – some have several dozen co-authors; and the conclusion was clear: “There is evidence that human-to-human transmission has occurred among close contacts since the middle of December 2019,” wrote one paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Jan. 29.

Officials denied any human-to-human transmission until Jan. 23. The delayed public health intervention is largely blamed for the virus’ rapid spreading. These papers indicate that critical facts about the virus might have been known by top medical experts earlier, but those facts were not disclosed to the public.

Reporter’s notebook on the gloomy situation in Wuhan communities

There have been two key battlegrounds in Wuhan. The first is the city’s medical institutions, which have been completely swamped. The second, less visible, battleground is the 1,159 residential communities which have been charged with making sure essential supplies are available, and identifying and quarantining potentially infected people as early as possible. The task of tracing infections and dealing with the dead is falling on poorly equipped, undertrained community workers.

Compiled by Mo Yelin

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Thursday Jan. 30, 12:30 p.m.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases has risen to 7,742 in China, the Chinese authorities said.

Thursday Jan. 30, 10:00 a.m.

By the end of Wednesday, China confirmed 7,736 cases of coronavirus, according to latest data released by the country’s top health body (link in Chinese).

That includes 1,737 new cases, of which 131 are severe. Thirty-eight additional deaths were reported, including 37 in Hubei and one in Sichuan, bringing the death toll to 170.

Coronavirus has now spread to every provincial-level region in China as the first case was reported in the Tibet autonomous region.

Twenty-one additional patients were recorded as having recovered and been discharged from hospital. That brings those who were recovered to a total of 124.

Chinese authorities said they had tracked nearly 90,000 close contacts of infected people, and more than 80,000 are under medical observation.

More flights canceled

Lufthansa Group, which includes Lufthansa, Swiss and Austrian Airlines, has canceled all flights to the Chinese mainland until Feb. 9.

Air Canada said Wednesday that it would suspend all direct flights to Beijing and Shanghai from Thursday until the end of February, citing advice from the Canadian government.

WHO to reconvene emergency committee in Geneva

The World Health Organization’s coronavirus emergency committee will meet again Thursday to decide whether the coronavirus outbreak is an international health emergency, a week after choosing not to label it as such.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced the decision to reconvene in a string of tweets Wednesday, citing signs of person-to-person transmission in three countries outside China.

“This potential for further global spread is why I called the (emergency committee),” he tweeted.

Tedros, who is known by his first name, said about one in five cases of the coronavirus so far were severe.

The tweets followed the director-general’s return from China where he met Chinese President Xi Jinping for what he called “frank talks.”

“China has committed to protecting its citizens & all people globally from the outbreak," Tedros said Wednesday, adding that the country had invited WHO to assemble and lead a team of international experts to assess the outbreak.

The WHO’s Emergency Committee on the novel coronavirus will meet at 8.30 p.m. Beijing time.

Wednesday Jan. 29, 10:00 p.m.

Chinese national football team quarantined in Australia

The Chinese national women's football team and their support staff, who arrived in Australia Wednesday morning ahead of next week's Olympic qualifiers, have been quarantined in their hotel rooms in Brisbane until Feb. 5.

"We are working closely with the hotel and the 32 individuals concerned — who are all well and not showing symptoms — and we have Queensland Health staff present at the hotel,” local health authorities said in a statement.

“If any of the individuals begin to show symptoms, they will be transferred to a hospital, and any necessary contact tracing will take place.”

Beijing warns of person-to-person spread

Health officials have warned second-generation cases of coronavirus are emerging in China's capital of Beijing, meaning the disease is spreading there, the Beijing Municipal Government Information Office warned Wednesday.

While most cases in the city were still imported, multiple clusters had been identified and some cases looked like they had been transmitted within Beijing. There were also asymptomatic cases, meaning people may not realize they had been carrying and spreading the virus.

Officials said people should take precautions such as wearing masks and regularly washing their hands, and reporting themselves to authorities if they develop symptoms such as a fever.

The office denied claims online that there had been new deaths in the city. Beijing had recorded 102 known cases of coronavirus as of noon Wednesday, and one death.

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Starbucks has temporarily closed more than half of its stores across the Chinese mainland and shortened the opening times of others, citing outbreak fears.

• Chinese genome giant BGI has been given regulatory approval to sell three medical devices meant to help fight the coronavirus, including a testing kit that the company says will allow doctors to identify it in around three hours.

• A 44-year-old Wuhan man became Australia's seventh case of coronavirus, and the first in the northeastern state of Queensland.

• The first cases of coronavirus in the Middle East were confirmed as the United Arab Emirates reported four people who traveled there together from Wuhan had tested positive.

• The U.K. flag carrier British Airways suspended all flights to and from mainland China, citing advice from the British Foreign Office about the dangers of China’s coronavirus outbreak.

• A Caixin investigation found that as resources are mobilized to fight the coronavirus in Wuhan, patients with other diseases are missing out, putting their lives at risk.

Wednesday Jan. 29, 10:30 a.m.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in China had passed 6000. The official death toll was unchanged at 132.

Wednesday Jan. 29, 09:30 a.m.

As of the end of Tuesday, China had confirmed 5,997 cases of coronavirus, according to the latest daily report from the country’s top health body (link in Chinese).

That included 1,462 new cases, over 260 of which were severe.

Twenty-six additional deaths were recorded, including 25 in Hubei and one in Henan, near Beijing, bringing the death toll to 132.

Tibet reported a suspected case of the disease, which if confirmed would be its first, and would mean the coronavirus has spread to every one of China’s provincial-level regions.

Forty-three additional patients were recorded as having recovered and been discharged from hospital.

Chinese authorities said they had tracked over 65,000 close contacts of infected people, and that nearly 60,000 were under medical observation.

There were eight confirmed cases in Hong Kong, seven in Macao, and eight in Taiwan.

Kenyan embassy in China issues briefing to citizens

According to a letter sent to Kenyan citizens in China by the Kenyan Embassy, obtained by Caixin, Chinese officials have required foreign governments seeking to evacuate their citizens to subject them to a 14-day quarantine period, in addition to obtaining permission for their charter flights to enter Chinese airspace.

At a ministry-level briefing on the coronavirus outbreak held Monday, which was attended by “all diplomatic missions,” Chinese authorities discouraged evacuations, saying they were up to the task of fighting the virus, according to the statement.

Of the countries evacuating their citizens so far, the U.S., France, and Australia have indicated they would comply with the quarantine requirement.

Australia to evacuate citizens

The Australian government is preparing to evacuate citizens trapped in Hubei by Qantas flight to quarantine facilities on Christmas Island, an Australian territory in the Indian Ocean.

The people will be quarantined there for 14 days while they are assessed by medical experts.

In a statement, Australia’s foreign affairs minister said the Australian Embassy in Beijing was still awaiting formal approval from the Chinese government for the plan.

If it goes ahead, evacuees will be asked to “commit to making a contribution to the cost,” the statement said.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said 1 million face masks would be released from the country’s national stockpile, but the nation’s chief medical officer said the risk to Australia was “extremely low.”

U.S. expands airports conducting virus screening

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have expanded virus screenings from five airports to 20, CNBC reported.

American carrier United Airlines said it would cancel some of its flights to and from China, starting Feb. 1, due to a drop in demand, according to the CNBC report.

In a statement on its website, United said that following advice from U.S. health authorities, it would issue travel waivers to let people flying to China postpone their flights for free, and would be refunding canceled flights.

Wednesday Jan. 29, 01:40 a.m.

Hong Kong cuts back travel channels with mainland China

• Hong Kong escalated its precautionary measures against the coronavirus outbreak by significantly reducing the number of visitors from mainland China.

The special administrative region is shutting down high-speed trains connecting with the mainland and suspending cross-border tour buses and ferries, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said Tuesday. Flights between mainland China and Hong Kong will be reduced by half, she said. The measures take effect at 12:01 a.m. Jan. 30 and continue until further notice.

• The Beijing Railway Bureau suspended selected trains to Shanghai, Tianjin, Kunming and Inner Mongolia as far as March 2, the bureau said Tuesday. Passengers who have already booked tickets for the affected trains will be allowed to obtain full refunds within 30 days.

Japan reports first coronavirus patient who didn’t visit Wuhan

• Japan confirmed two more coronavirus cases Tuesday, including a tour bus driver who has never been to Wuhan where the outbreak of the deadly virus began.

The bus driver in his 60s is the first Japanese to be infected with the virus in Japan, the health ministry said. He drove two groups of Chinese tourists visiting from Wuhan earlier this month.

Singapore confirms 2 more new cases and bans Hubei visitors

• Two new coronavirus cases were confirmed in Singapore, the Ministry of Health said Tuesday, bringing the total number infected to seven.

Both patients are Chinese nationals from Wuhan, Hubei province. Singapore is putting in place precautionary measures to bar travelers from Hubei from entering the country.

New visitors with a history of travel to Hubei within the last 14 days or holding Chinese passports issued in Hubei will not be allowed to enter or pass through Singapore starting at noon Wednesday.

Tuesday Jan. 28, 06:30 p.m.

Patient count on the rise

• Chinese authorities have confirmed 4,630 cases of infection by the virus, with over 2,700 in Hubei, the central province whose capital is Wuhan, and over 1,900 in other parts of the country. The death toll remains unchanged at 106.

Southwest China’s Chongqing has the most confirmed cases for any city outside Hubei, with 132 infections.

China’s four biggest cities — Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen — confirmed 91, 66, 51, and 57 infections, respectively.

• Fourteen other countries reported a total of 57 infections.

The U.S. had identified five infections as of Monday evening — in the states of Washington, California, Arizona, and Illinois — according to its Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A total of 73 people were waiting for test results.

Tuesday Jan. 28, 02:30 p.m.

Shortages of medical resources remain

• Multiple patients in Wuhan said they failed to see a doctor or be hospitalized, as medical resources remain in short supply in the face of soaring demand.

Authorities say they are addressing the issue by dispatching more medical personnel and increasing the number of beds, National Health Commission official Jiao Yahui said at a press conference (link in Chinese) on Tuesday. Since Friday, more than 4,000 doctors and nurses from all over the country have arrived in Hubei to assist, while around 1,800 more were on their way and are expected to arrive in Wuhan on Tuesday, she said.

• Medical personnel in Wuhan are under huge stress due to the high workload and great mental pressure as they risk becoming infected themselves, said Jiao.

Several online medical consultation platforms are helping combat the virus (link in Chinese), with over 10,000 doctors offering remote consultation services, according to platform data, even though they are unable to offer diagnoses or prescribe medication.

Tuesday Jan. 28, 10:30 a.m.

Chinese authorities have confirmed 4,529 cases of infection.

Fourteen other countries reported a total of 46 infections, as Germany, Cambodia, and Sri Lanka confirmed their first cases.

Tuesday Jan. 28, 10:11 a.m.

By late Monday, the number of people in China confirmed to be infected with the virus had surged to 4,535, up over 1,770 from a day earlier, according to data (link in Chinese) from the country’s top health authority.

The official death toll climbed to 106, up 26 from Sunday. Suspected cases rose to 6,973.

Tuesday Jan. 28, 09:00 a.m.

• The number of confirmed infections in Hubei, the central Chinese province around Wuhan, shot up by 1,291 on Monday, according to data (link in Chinese) from its health authority. The number represents an increase of over 90% in just one day, bringing the total to 2,714.

The surge comes as manufacturers have boosted production of test kits and accelerated their distribution as an emergency response. In addition, medical regulators have allowed hospitals to simplify a previously lengthy diagnostic process.

The majority of newly confirmed cases — 892 — were reported in Wuhan, the epicenter of the virus outbreak.

• The death toll hit 100 in the province as of the end of Monday, rising nearly a third from 76 a day earlier. The majority of the deaths were also in Wuhan — 85.

• As of Monday, over 15,000 people who were believed to have come into close contact with the virus were under medical observation in the province.

• Hundreds of new infections were reported in other parts of China.

Tuesday Jan. 28, 03:00 a.m.

Cambodia confirms first case of coronavirus infection

• The case made the Southeast Asian country the 12th to report the disease outside China. The total of confirmed infections has reached 43 in those countries.

The Cambodia patient is a Chinese national in the coastal city of Sihanoukville, according to Cambodia’s Health Minister Mam Bunheng on Monday. Three family members who accompanied the patient tested negative for the virus.

Wuhan leader offers resignation as officials in various provinces are punished

• Wuhan Mayor Zhou Xianwang, who has been leading the fight against the new coronavirus outbreak at its epicenter, acknowledged that the city failed to disclose information on the epidemic in a timely way and offered his resignation.

• Several lower-level officials across the country have been held accountable for flaws in handling the disease control, including Tang Hu, head of a district health authority in Yueyang, Hunan province, and Yao Zhongjing, a district market regulator at Jinan, Shandong province.

Holiday extended and stock market opening delayed

• China’s stock markets in Shanghai and Shenzhen will remain closed until Feb. 3 amid the worsening virus crisis. The original opening day was to be Jan. 31.

The deadline for listed companies to publish 2019 preliminary earning estimates will also be extended to Feb. 3. Bond transactions originally scheduled for Jan. 31 and Feb. 3 will be delayed to Feb. 3 and 4.

• The State Council said Monday that the Lunar New Year public holiday will be extended to Feb. 2, three days longer than initially planned.

Wuhan seafood market may not be the only source of coronavirus

• A recent report by The Lancet medical journal casts doubts on the original source of the new coronavirus spreading globally. So far it has been widely believed that a seafood market in Wuhan where wild animals were sold was the origin of the outbreak.

However, research on the first 41 hospitalized patients who had confirmed infections found that 14 people had no contact with the market, suggesting there is more than one source of the virus. “Now it seems clear that (the) seafood market is not the only origin of the virus,” said Cao Bin, one of the essay’s authors quoted by ScienceInsider. “But to be honest, we still do not know where the virus came from now.

Japan offers government funds to cover treatments for new virus

• The Japanese government said it will designate the viral pneumonia as a special infectious disease and use public funds to provide urgent treatment for patients. The country has confirmed four cases.

The government said Monday that Japan will dispatch a chartered plane to the central Chinese city of Wuhan, possibly on Tuesday, to bring back citizens who wish to return home amid a deadly outbreak.

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Medical workers write their names on their protective gear to identify each other at a hospital in Wuhan, Central China’s Hubei province. Photo: Ding Gang/Caixin

Monday Jan.27, 09:00 p.m.

Cases in China’s biggest cities climb as WHO head plans Beijing trip

• Two of China’s biggest cities, Beijing and Shanghai, confirmed 72 and 53 cases of infection.

China’s overall patient count rose to 2,840. The death toll reached 81, as the southern island province of Hainan reported its first death from the new disease.

Taiwan confirmed an additional case of infection, bringing its total to five. Macao also reported an additional case, bringing its total to six. Hong Kong’s number of cases was unchanged at eight.

• Rural areas, where a large number of people returned ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday, are the weak links of China’s battle against the epidemic, as rural residents generally have lower awareness of disease prevention, said a National Health Commission official at a press briefing (link in Chinese) on Monday.

• Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, announced on Twitter Monday that he was on his way to Beijing to meet with officials and health experts as part of the coronavirus response.

“We are working 24/7 to support (China) & its people during this difficult time & remain in close contact with affected countries, with our regional and country offices deeply involved,” he tweeted.

• As of Monday evening, more than 40 cases of infection had been confirmed outside China, including eight in Thailand, five in the U.S., and five in Australia.

Holiday lull affects medical supplies as fears about substandard testing kits grow

• Manufacturers of test kits have boosted production to meet a surging demand for diagnosing the previously unknown coronavirus, industry insiders told Caixin (link in Chinese).

However, a lower-than-normal efficiency of the logistics industry during the holiday has impacted timely distribution of test kits, many of which must be kept refrigerated during transport, they said. A lack of qualified laboratories and testing personnel with sufficient self-protection also remains an issue, a general manager of a test kit manufacturer said.

Chinese drug regulators have quickened the pace of approving test kits. But some manufacturers said they are selling hospitals kits that have yet to be verified by disease control and prevention authorities in response to emergency situations.

There are fears that the use of poor-quality test kits means hospitals may fail to correctly diagnose infected patients, helping the disease to spread, said one senior manufacturing executive who called for stricter regulation.

• China’s top customs authority promised (link in Chinese) a fast channel to advance inbound overseas donations for epidemic prevention, including rapid customs clearance of drugs, disinfectants, and protective equipment. Early Sunday, Wuhan’s customs authority gave the nod to the first batch of donations: 10,000 sets of protective clothing from Cambodia.

Some of the overseas donations, however, can only be tax exempt with domestic medical device registration certificates, which are difficult for some donors to obtain, an industry source with knowledge of the matter said (link in Chinese). Despite government efforts to bring domestic regulation into line with international standards for medical supplies, authorities need to make things clearer, she said.

Monday Jan. 27, 02:30 p.m.

Australia confirms fifth case

Australian authorities have confirmed the country’s fifth case of coronavirus, and the fourth in Sydney. Local media identified the patient as a 21-year-old female student at the University of New South Wales who had recently visited Wuhan.

A letter from the university’s president to staff and students seen by Caixin said the student arrived in Sydney from Wuhan on Jan. 22. “The student did not attend any classes at the University and stayed on her own in campus accommodation with no close contact before she was admitted to hospital,” it said.

A spokeswoman for NSW Health told Caixin the student is not thought to have been infectious while on the plane.

Up to this point, three adult males had been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus in Sydney, and one in the southeastern state of Victoria. Three had traveled to Wuhan, while the final man had direct contact with a confirmed case from Wuhan elsewhere in China.

Monday Jan. 27, 11:00 a.m.

• Chinese authorities have confirmed 2,755 cases of infection, while 40 have been confirmed in other countries.

• The U.S. confirmed two more cases, bringing its total to five, while South Korea reported its fourth case.

Monday Jan. 27, 09:30 a.m.

Virus spread and reactions

• So far, over 5 million people have left Wuhan, the epicenter of the virus outbreak, city Mayor Zhou Xianwang said at a press conference (link in Chinese) on Sunday evening. The exodus comes amid virus fears, as well as the Lunar New Year holiday travel, believed to be the world’s largest annual migration of people.

• Starting Monday, the Hong Kong government began to impose restrictions on all Hubei province residents and people who visited the central Chinese province in the past 14 days from entering the city. Macao issued a similar travel ban, but individuals who can present a valid certificate confirming they are infection free are exempt.

Market and social impacts

• The State Council, China’s cabinet, has decided to extend the Lunar New Year public holiday to Feb. 2, three days longer than initially planned. It also instructed kindergartens, schools and universities to postpone reopening.

Multiple cities, including Suzhou (link in Chinese) and Huaian (link in Chinese) in the eastern province of Jiangsu, have ordered companies and factories not resume work before Feb. 9.

Monday Jan. 27, 08:13 a.m.

• As of late Sunday, cases of infection by the virus rose to 2,761 in China, according to data (link in Chinese) released on a daily basis by the country’s top health authority.

• The official death toll climbed to 80, up 24 from a day earlier. All the newly confirmed deaths were reported in Hubei, the central Chinese province around Wuhan.

• Suspected cases surged to 5,794 as of late Sunday, with 3,806 cases newly reported on the day.

• A total of 30,453 people who may have come into close contact with the virus were under medical observation, up 8,897 from a day earlier.

• Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan confirmed eight, five, and four cases, respectively.

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Two emergency workers wear protective clothing in an empty street Sunday. Photo: Ding Gang/Caixin

Sunday Jan. 26, 10:00 p.m.

Virus spread and reactions

• California health officials have confirmed a case of coronavirus infection, the first in the state and the third in the U.S. The patient traveled from Wuhan to Southern California. The Orange County Health Care Agency issued a statement saying the patient is in isolation at a hospital and in good condition.

Medical updates

• At a Sunday press conference, China’s top health official said the coronavirus transmission ability is getting stronger, infections could continue to rise, and the general situation nationwide is in still in the early stages of spreading. Ma Xiaowei, China’s Minister for the National Health Commission, said that knowledge about the new virus is still limited.

• Officials also acknowledged the shortage of medical clothing and possible solutions.

Hubei province alone needs approximately 100,000 sets of protective gowns on a daily basis, while the entire production capacity in China is about 30,000 in normal circumstances, and the Spring Festival holiday has reduced the actual capacity to about 13,000. Moreover, some gowns are produced for the overseas market and meet a different set of standards, which prevent them from being repurposed for local hospitals.

Wang Jiangping, Deputy Minister of Industry and Information Technology, laid out several steps which are being taken to solve the issue: Domestic factories must gear up to full production capacity; China must tap into its central reserves; health officials need to reconcile domestic and international standards; and the central government is purchasing supplies from overseas — 220,000 gowns from abroad are on their way.

Market and social impacts

• Most people returning home after visiting Wuhan are being closely monitored by local officials. Not only have they had to regularly report their health conditions, many found that personal data including ID numbers, phone numbers, car license plates and residential information are being recorded and circulated online (link in Chinese).

Sunday Jan. 26, 08:00 p.m.

• Infection cases are continuing to rise worldwide, standing at 2,095 as of Sunday evening. The vast majority of those cases — 2,058 — were in China, while 11 other countries confirmed 37 cases. Thailand has confirmed its eighth case, while Japan has reported its fourth.

• The death toll in China remains at 56, while none of the other countries have reported any deaths.

• In China, over half of its confirmed cases — 1,052 — were reported in Hubei, the central province around Wuhan, the epicenter of the virus outbreak.

• The wealthy coastal provinces of Guangdong and Zhejiang are the only two regions, other than Hubei, to have over 100 confirmed cases each, reporting 111 and 104, respectively.

• Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan have confirmed six, five, and three cases, respectively.

• Out of China’s 34 provincial-level regions, Tibet is the only one to have reported zero infections.

Sunday Jan. 26, 1:30 p.m.

• Canada confirms its first case of coronavirus infection.

• Beijing and Tianjin have suspended coach services to and from the cities in a bid to slow the outbreak of the virus.

• The U.S. state department issued a statement that it is arranging a flight out of Wuhan to help evacuate “personnel stationed at the U.S. consulate general in Wuhan to the United States”, and some “private U.S. citizens” with priority being given to “individuals at greater risk from coronavirus.”

• The Australian department of foreign affairs and trade said it is working with Chinese authorities to look for ways to allow Australians to leave Hubei province, where many cities have implemented severe transportation restrictions in an effort to quarantine millions of citizens.

• The French government has arranged for French citizens to be evacuated from Wuhan to Changsha city, Hunan province, via shuttle, according to a statement (link in French) by the French General Consulate in Wuhan.

• The government of India has issued a travel advisory recommending the public avoid “all non-essential travel” to China.

Sunday Jan. 26, 11:00 a.m.

Chinese authorities have confirmed 1,995 cases of infection.

Sunday Jan. 26, 10:00 a.m.

• Infection cases have risen to 2,006 worldwide. Chinese authorities confirmed (link in Chinese) 1,985 cases of infection as of late Saturday. Ten other countries on four continents — Asia, North America, Europe, and Australia — have confirmed a total of 31 cases of infection.

• In China, the death toll rose to 56 as of late Saturday. Suspected cases rose to 2,684, up 719 from a day earlier.

Sunday Jan. 26, 02:00 a.m.

• The U.S. issued its highest-level travel warning for Hubei province, telling Americans not to go there.

The State Department warned in an email Friday to Americans in China that the U.S. government had "limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in Hubei province." It also said the "Chinese government could prevent them from entering or exiting parts of Hubei province," and they could face "travel restrictions ... put into effect with little or no advance notice."

The U.S. updated its travel advisory for Hubei Thursday to "Level 4-Do Not Travel" and ordered the departure of "nonemergency" U.S. consular staff and their families from the provincial capital of Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak.

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Military doctors with equipment and supplies arrive at a Wuhan airport early Saturday morning. Photo: Ding Gang/Caixin

Saturday Jan. 25, 07:30 p.m.

• Chinese health authorities have confirmed 1,370 infection cases. The death toll remained at 41.

• Out of 31 provincial-level governments on the Chinese mainland, 30 have enacted level one emergency responses, the country’s highest level of public health emergency response.

• In Wuhan, the delivery of supplies remains inefficient due to strict controls over transportation in and out of the city, people at several logistics companies told Caixin.

Previously, to comply with a transportation lockdown, some companies chose to hand over goods at highway toll booths. Following a partial lift on travel restrictions on Friday, delivery drivers could go into the city after undergoing a strict reporting process, passing body temperature screening and completing disinfection practices, they said.

“Sometimes one (government) department gives a green light, but another says no,” a source at a large logistics firm said, adding that coordination among government departments has yet to improve. In addition, residents in some villages have blocked roads, also leading to low delivery efficiency, the source said.

• A total of 450 medical professionals from the military have arrived in Wuhan to assist in the city’s virus control efforts.

Saturday Jan. 25, 07:00 p.m.

• Australian officials have confirmed three more cases of coronavirus infection, bringing the total number of cases in the country to four.

Saturday Jan. 25, 01:00 p.m.

• Chinese health authorities have confirmed 1,330 infection cases.

• Malaysia has reported its first confirmed cases of infection.

• A total of 20 Chinese provincial-level governments, including Beijing, Shanghai and the southern province of Guangdong, have enacted “Level I” emergency responses, the country’s highest level of public health emergency response to the virus. This means the State Council, China’s cabinet, or its relevant departments are now in charge of related medical responses, including scientific research, management of emergency supplies and equipment, as well as international exchange and cooperation.

Saturday Jan. 25, 11:00 a.m.

• Chinese health authorities have confirmed 1,326 infection cases.

• Australia reported its first confirmed case of the infection.

Saturday Jan. 25, 10:00 a.m.

• Chinese health authorities have confirmed 1,313 infection cases.

Saturday Jan. 25, 09:00 a.m.

• Chinese authorities had confirmed 1,297 infection cases (link in Chinese) as of the end of Friday, an increase of over 55% from 835 cases (link in Chinese) a day earlier.

The death toll from the new coronavirus rose to 41 in total, with 39 in Hubei, the province around Wuhan; one in Hebei, a province bordering Beijing; and one in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang.

• France reported the first confirmed cases in Europe, initially reporting two patients who had visited Wuhan, and later announcing a third, who is a relative of one of them.

• South Asian country Nepal confirmed the first case of infection — a student who studied in Wuhan.

Saturday Jan. 25, 5 a.m.

• Flights carrying medical supplies and professionals from outside Wuhan reached the city around midnight, including 150 physicians from the military. Earlier, medical professionals from Guangdong, Shanghai and other regions arrived to assist Wuhan’s pandemic control efforts.

• Jiang Chaoliang, the Hubei Communist Party chief, said publicly that the city will accept all suspected cases and put them in effective quarantine. The remark come amid reports that many patients were unable to be admitted by hospitals due to shortages of hospital beds and virus testing devices.

Saturday Jan. 25, 01:00 a.m.

• The United States Friday confirmed a second case of the new coronavirus that originated in Wuhan. The patient is a 60-year-old woman who returned to Chicago from Wuhan on Jan. 13 and began experiencing symptoms a few days later, according to health official in Chicago.

More cases in the U.S. are likely, said Nancy Messonnier, the director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. U.S. federal and local health authorities are monitoring more than 60 people as they attempt to catch new cases of coronavirus in travelers from China.

• As of 10 p.m. Jan. 24, China has confirmed a total of 900 cases of the viral disease with 26 deaths. In Hubei province surrounding Wuhan, 549 cases were reported. Confirmed infections abroad totaled 16 including the latest one in the U.S.

A total of 15 of China’s provincial-level jurisdictions, including Beijing and Shanghai, enacted “Level I” emergency responses, the country’s highest level of public health emergency response to the virus.

Activating the highest of four possible levels indicates that the State Council will take over responsibility for medical responses, information dissemination, scientific research, international exchange and cooperation, emergency supplies and facility management, logistics and overseeing inspections.

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A plane carrying medical workers and equipment lands in Wuhan in the early hours of Saturday morning. Photo: Ding Gang/Caixin

Friday Jan. 24, 6:30 p.m.

• Chinese authorities had confirmed 887 infection cases as of 5:25 p.m. Friday. The official death count was unchanged.

• Singapore’s health ministry confirmed two new cases, bringing the total number there to three. South Korea confirmed its second case. That brought the total number of cases abroad to 14.

• A WHO statement Thursday that Chinese authorities had presented evidence of “fourth-generation (coronavirus) cases in Wuhan” has raised concerns the virus is more contagious than initially thought. The group did not elaborate.

When disease experts talk about generations of infection, they’re referring to a person who contracted the virus from its original source having passed it to another, who then passed it to another.

“Fourth-generation cases show that it can spread more effectively between people than we thought a week ago,” said Sanjaya Senanayake, a professor of medicine at the Australian National University.

“About a week ago if you’d called me, based on what I was reading, I’d have said there was no human-to-human transmission, or it was limited,” Senanayake told Caixin.

“But this just shows how quickly this outbreak is moving, and how we’re learning about the behavior of this virus all the time. Maybe in 48 hours, we’ll know something else.”

• The recent surge in confirmed cases of the novel virus in Wuhan is due in part to a shortened diagnostic process and accelerated distribution of test kits.

However, Caixin reporters on the ground in Wuhan have found some people who developed symptoms of the disease have failed to undergo timely diagnostic tests for the virus, due to insufficient supplies of healthcare resources such as test kits, and hospitals or labs that are qualified to conduct the tests.

The relative of one man suspected of having the disease told Caixin (link in Chinese) he had visited a hospital in Wuhan on Jan. 19, and undergone a CT scan and blood work. But there was no coronavirus test kit available, meaning he could not be diagnosed.

Wuhan’s health commission said it has taken measures to address the issues.

“Currently there is an obvious trend of an increasing number of fever patients in the city, and there are long queues at fever clinics and a tight supply of sickbeds for those who need to be kept under observation,” the local health commission said (link in Chinese). It added that local authorities have designated more hospitals to take care of fever patients, and to set aside over 3,000 sickbeds for patients with suspected or confirmed cases of the virus.

• The list of cities under full or partial lockdown grew to 13: Wuhan, Ezhou, Xiantao, Zhijiang, Qianjiang, Huanggang, Chibi, Jingmen, Xianning, Huangshi, Dangyang, Enshi, and Xiaogan.

• A vaccine for the new virus is months away at a minimum, according to an international epidemiology group funding three simultaneous international efforts to create one.

Friday Jan. 24, 11:00 a.m.

• Chinese authorities had confirmed 869 infection cases at the end of Thursday. Nearly two-thirds of those were in Hubei, the province around Wuhan.

• The death toll from the new coronavirus rose to 26.

• The first two deaths outside the epicenter of the outbreak were recorded. One was in Hebei, a province bordering Beijing, and the other was in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang.

Friday Jan. 24, 5:30 a.m.

• The World Health Organization said it’s not yet time to declare a global health emergency over the coronavirus outbreak in China, following two days of deliberation and discussion.

“Make no mistake, this is an emergency in China,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the United Nations’ WHO. “But it has not yet become a global health emergency.”

The organization said Chinese authorities have been very transparent compared with what happened with the SARS outbreak in 2003, which claimed nearly 800 lives.

• The death toll caused by the new coronavirus rose to 18 as the first death outside Wuhan was reported in northern China’s Hebei province.

• Hong Kong sets up quarantine zones after two infection cases were confirmed Thursday. The city reported 67 suspected infections as of Thursday noon and has put 55 people under quarantine.

• China’s health-care security administration said patients infected with the new coronavirus will get coverage for their medical spending to make sure people receive necessary treatment. Several commercial insurers also launched contingency plans to help people obtain quick reimbursement for treatment.

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A doctor walks toward a coronavirus isolation ward in full protective gear. Photo: Ding Gang/Caixin

Thursday Jan. 23, 11:30 p.m.

• Several Chinese cities said major New Year celebration events will be canceled to prevent mass gatherings and reduce the risk of virus contagion. Beijing’s cultural and tourism authority said several signature temple fairs — traditional Lunar New Year gatherings — will be canceled. Large cultural and entertainment venues including the Palace Museum will be closed during the holiday. People who bought tickets in advance will receive refunds.

Similar cancellations were announced in cities including Hangzhou in Zhejiang province, Hohhot in Inner Mongolia and Wuhan, the center of the outbreak.

The Shanghai Disney Resort said it will allow guests to reschedule or receive refunds for entry tickets as well as hotel bookings. Guests can choose to change their bookings to any other day within the next six months or get their money back, the theme park said Thursday. Luxury hotel chain InterContinental Hotels Group Plc said guests can change or cancel reservations across the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan.

• Airlines are canceling outbound flights from Wuhan as the city was placed under quarantine Thursday morning. Air China canceled 28 flights from Wuhan; China Eastern, 78 flights; and China Southern, 108. Shenzhen Airlines said all trips linking with the city between Jan. 24 and Feb. 10 will be canceled, and Cathay Dragon suspended all Wuhan flights until Feb. 29. Passengers will receive refunds for the cancellations.

• The Ministry of Transport ordered all commercial vehicles and vessels to stop entering Wuhan. Transportation via Wuhan should adjust routes to stay away from the city, and those already en route to Wuhan should immediately return, according to the ministry.

• As of Thursday night, a total of seven cities in Hubei have imposed transport bans, including Wuhan, Ezhou, Huanggang, Xiantao, Zhijiang, Chibi and Qianjiang.

Thursday Jan. 23, 10 p.m.

• China had confirmed 639 cases of coronavirus as of 10 p.m. Thursday, while the official death toll was unchanged at 17. All recorded deaths were in Hubei, where there were 444 confirmed cases.

• Additional cities were under lockdown and the virus had spread to many of China’s provincial-level regions.

• Ahead of a World Health Organization meeting to determine whether it constitutes an international crisis, a member of the group’s emergency committee told Caixin that he thought there was still too little known about the virus to draw a conclusion.

• A Hong Kong-based virologist who helped identify the coronavirus that caused SARS has weighed in on the current outbreak with some sobering words, saying he feared the spread of the virus could be 10 times larger than SARS due to the Lunar New Year human migration.

• Scientists affiliated with U.K.-based universities disputed a widely circulated study pointing to snakes as the source of the new coronavirus, saying that bats are more likely to be the real culprit.

• Chinese box office sales tumbled dramatically in more evidence that virus fears were impacting other sectors.

Thursday Jan. 23, 7:30 p.m.

A member of the World Health Organization (WHO) committee set to meet in Geneva Thursday night said it was still unclear whether the group would declare the coronavirus an international health emergency.

While he would not discuss details of the deliberations due to confidentiality, Australian disease expert John Mackenzie said that for him, there was still too little known about the virus to draw a conclusion.

“We’re working in the dark at this stage, largely,” he told Caixin. “There’s arguments both ways.”

“We need to know more about the virulence, we need to know more about transmissibility, we need to know more about severity, we need to know still more about the clinical symptoms.” One question was whether patients become more infectious as the disease progresses, as was the case with SARS. “That’s why we saw a lot of (SARS) cases in hospital giving rise to healthcare workers being infected — because (doctors) thought the infectious period had pretty much finished.”

Mackenzie said getting answers to those questions would take time. The Chinese authorities had been “very transparent,” which was “quite the opposite of what happened with SARS,” said the professor, who led the WHO's first technical mission to China to investigate the origin of SARS.

“We basically told the Chinese (at the time) if they didn’t get their act together they would have more of these things, and if they tried to hide them they’d be pariahs. I think they took it to heart.”

The WHO's International Health Regulations Emergency Committee is set to reconvene Thursday after postponing its decision on whether to declare an international health emergency on Wednesday.

Thursday Jan. 23, 4 p.m.

A Hong Kong-based virologist who helped identify the coronavirus that caused SARS has weighed in on the current outbreak with some sobering words. “I’ve never felt scared,” he told Caixin on Thursday. “This time I’m scared.”

Guan Yi, who heads the University of Hong Kong’s State Key Laboratory of Emerging Infectious Diseases, said he traveled to Wuhan this week expecting the city to be on a war footing. He said despite strong words from China’s central authorities, that’s not what he saw. “I don't think the local government has done what it should do. They haven’t even been handing out quarantine guides to people who were leaving the city.”

Guan told Caixin he feared the spread of this virus could be over 10 times larger than SARS, and that the lockdown implemented Thursday was unlikely to be effective because the window for controlling its spread ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday had already closed.

Guan said some of those traveling for the holiday could be carriers and could have taken the virus to all parts of the country.

Thursday Jan. 23, 1.30 p.m.

• Doctors at several major local hospitals in Wuhan told Caixin that it is estimated that the number of people infected with the epidemic may eventually exceed 6,000.

• China’s health commission released more detailed information on the 17 people known to have died from the virus (link in Chinese). At this stage, the majority appear to have been elderly and in poor health, though experts have warned it is too early to draw conclusions about the significance of this. The youngest was a 48-year-old woman surnamed Yin, who had diabetes and had previously suffered a stroke. The next oldest was a 53-year-old man surnamed Lei, while five were in their 60s, two were in their 70s and eight were in their 80s. Thirteen were male, four were female. The health commission said an additional 95 patients were severely ill.

• That lines up with the current World Health Organization advice that the highest risk groups for the virus are people over 40 years old, men, and people who have other medical conditions.

• After analyzing the virus’s genetic profile, Chinese researchers identified snakes as the likely animal source of the coronavirus outbreak. 

• A British research team using international travel patterns to predict the total number of coronavirus cases has revised its estimate to 4,000 cases.

• Chinese e-commerce companies moved to block vendors from jacking up prices on face masks and respirators as panic over the coronavirus outbreak puts pressure on supply.

• John Kilduff, a partner at Again Capital LLC linked the disease to a drop in oil prices, which fell to their lowest level in six weeks on Jan. 22.

• As the last trains pulled out of Wuhan this morning ahead of a citywide lockdown, a team of Caixin reporters decided to remain there to continue documenting the course of the virus. They will continue to report from inside the quarantine zone.

Thursday, Jan. 23, 4 a.m.

• The World Health Organization (WHO) said it is not ready to declare the new coronavirus a global health emergency. Physicians need more information to make that decision, said Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus Wednesday afternoon in Geneva, as the organization convened an emergency meeting on the virus. The emergency committee will hold another meeting Thursday. The WHO has researchers on the ground in China collecting data, Ghebreyesus said.

Thursday, Jan. 23, 3 a.m.

• Wuhan imposed a massive quarantine in a step to halt the spread of the viral coronavirus that first appeared there. Starting at 10 a.m. Jan. 23, all bus, subway, ferry and long-distance bus systems in the city of 11 million people will be suspended, and authorities asked residents to remain in the city.

“Residents should not leave Wuhan except for special reasons,” a government statement said. “Departures from Wuhan at airports and railway stations will also be temporarily closed.” No timetable for resumption was given.

• To contain the spreading virus, Wuhan has started screening vehicles and travelers going in and out of the city by road. Temperature checkpoints will be installed along major routes to the city, a central China transportation hub.

The Wuhan city government also required residents to wear masks in public areas including parks, cinemas, museums, shopping malls and restaurants.

Thursday, Jan. 23, 1 a.m.

• Casualties of the viral coronavirus continued climbing. As of midnight Wednesday, officials have confirmed 544 cases of infection in China and 17 deaths. Wuhan, the epicenter of the contagion, reported 62 new infections and eight deaths during the day, bringing the total number of confirmed case in the central province of Hubei to 444. A total of seven cases have been reported outside China including Thailand, Japan, South Korea and the U.S.

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A doctor checks the X-ray of a coronavirus patient. Photo: Ding Gang/Caixin

Wednesday, Jan. 22, noon

• Nine people have now died and the number of confirmed coronavirus cases on the Chinese mainland has climbed to 339, the State Council Information Office said in a morning press conference. There was one case in Macao and one case in Taiwan. A total of 1,394 people are under medical observation.

• Researchers from the German Center for Infection Research have developed and released a rapid diagnostic test for the new virus. It has been published online by the World Health Organization (WHO).

• Coronavirus fears have prompted North Korea to place a temporary ban on foreign tourists, according to a tour operator based in Beijing.

• The WHO is preparing to convene an expert committee in Geneva on Wednesday to determine whether the outbreak constitutes an international health emergency.

Wednesday Jan. 22, 3 a.m.

• The United States confirmed its first case of infection by the novel coronavirus racing through China. A male patient in his 30s was diagnosed with the virus in Snohomish County, Washington state, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

The patient had recently traveled to Wuhan, where a cluster of infection cases has been reported, and returned Jan. 15 to the U.S. He sought care at a medical facility in Washington after showing pneumonia-like symptoms, according to the CDC. The person is in good condition and isolated “out of caution,” and the case “poses little risk” to the public, a CDC official said.

The CDC said it deployed a team to support the ongoing investigation in Washington, including potentially tracing close contacts to determine whether anyone else has become ill.

The CDC last week started to screen passengers entering the U.S. from Wuhan at three airports: San Francisco, Los Angeles and John F. Kennedy in New York.

Tuesday, Jan. 21, 12 p.m.

• The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in China grew to 319, including 270 in Hubei, 10 in Beijing, 17 in Guangdong and six in Shanghai. The death toll reached six, all in Hubei. Outside China, one confirmed case was reported in Japan, two in Thailand and one in South Korea.

• Top health experts warned of potential risks of a so-called “super-spreader” — a patient with stronger infectious power than other patients — in the spread of coronavirus, which will pose greater challenges for epidemic control.

Tuesday, Jan. 21, 7 p.m.

• The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in China grew to 291, according to the country’s National Health Commission. That included 270 in Hubei — the province containing Wuhan — two in Shanghai, five in Beijing and 14 in Guangdong.

• China’s top health body said 922 more people were under medical observation, while an additional 817 who may have come into contact with the virus have been cleared.

• A 5-year-old boy who arrived from Wuhan became the first person in the Philippines to undergo testing for the disease, CNN reported. He’s reportedly in stable condition at a hospital in the city of Cebu.

• Taiwan’s health authority confirmed the first case of infection — in a woman of around 50 who works in Wuhan.

Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2 p.m.

• Wuhan’s municipal health commission said in a statement that a fourth person had died from the virus. The victim, an 89-year-old man surnamed Chen, died late Sunday evening. He had had a number of existing health conditions including high blood pressure, diabetes and coronary heart disease, the statement said.

• The number of medical workers diagnosed with the virus in Wuhan rose to 15, one more than the figure reported yesterday. A further suspected case has not been confirmed.

• The World Health Organization said it would convene an emergency meeting on the virus on Wednesday, as the total number of confirmed cases worldwide rose to 222. Of those, 218 are in China, two are in Thailand, one is in Japan and one is in South Korea.

• A man from Brisbane, Australia, who recently returned from Wuhan is being tested for the disease after he developed symptoms and sought medical attention, according to the local health department. A spokesman for Queensland Health told Caixin that the man had “recovered,” but they would need to wait a few days for test results to confirm whether he had the coronavirus. “He’s no longer sick with whatever he had,” the spokesman said.

• Australia said it will start screening passengers arriving on three weekly flights from Wuhan to Sydney, Reuters reported. The news comes after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said travelers arriving from Wuhan will have to undergo screenings at airports in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

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In Wuhan, excavators work at the construction site of a new quarantine hospital which authorities say will be able to accommodate 1,000 coronavirus patients. Photo: Ding Gang/Caixin

Monday Jan. 20, 11:30 p.m.

• Shanghai confirmed the first imported coronavirus case Monday night after reporting two suspected cases earlier in the day. The patient, a 56-year-old woman, showed symptoms of fever and fatigue shortly after she arrived at Shanghai from Wuhan, according to the National Health Commission. The patient was admitted to a local hospital and is in stable condition. Two people in close contact with her in Shanghai are under observation, the city’s health authority said.

• Zhong Nanshan, one of China’s best-known epidemiology experts who leads the national health commission team investigating the outbreak, said in an interview (link in Chinese) with the state broadcaster that it is confirmed that the new virus can be passed between people. Health authorities have been reluctant to confirm human-to-human transmission after the pneumonia broke out in Wuhan, where 198 cases have been confirmed.

Zhong said (link in Chinese) human-to-human transmission of the virus has been identified in Wuhan and Guangdong, and 14 medical staff have been affected during treatments.

• Vice Premier Sun Chunlan at a Monday meeting on pneumonia control said the new coronavirus is classified as a Class B infectious disease — the second-most serious level under Chinese law. Sun urged local authorities to enhance control and prevention efforts to stop the spread of the virus.

• Hong Kong said it will require all flight passengers arriving from Wuhan to declare their health conditions starting Jan. 21. The city also ordered doctors and medical institutions to report suspected infection cases to health authorities.

Monday, Jan. 20, 8:47 p.m.

• South Korea confirmed its first case of the coronavirus, becoming the latest country to report the new disease after Thailand and Japan. The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the patient, a Chinese woman in her 30s from Wuhan, had been misdiagnosed with a cold at a Wuhan hospital after she developed a headache and fever on Jan. 18, well after medical staff were on alert for the virus. They said she denied visiting the seafood and animal market where the outbreak is believed to have originated. Her fever was detected by a thermal scanner during entry at Incheon International Airport.

• The number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus in China grew to 217, with five now confirmed in Beijing, 14 in Guangdong (up from one confirmed case earlier today) and 198 in Wuhan.

• Authorities issued a warning about seven suspected cases in cities and regions where they had not previously been reported: two in Sichuan, one in Yunnan, two in Shanghai, one in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region and one in Shandong province.

• China’s leader Xi Jinping weighed in on the outbreak Monday, urging a redoubling of control and prevention efforts to ensure a “stable and peaceful Spring Festival.”

Monday, Jan. 20, 3:39 p.m.

• The number of confirmed cases in Wuhan more than tripled over the weekend, with provincial authorities reporting an additional 136 people had been diagnosed with the novel virus. Wuhan’s total number of confirmed cases now stands at 198.

• Wuhan’s health commission confirmed that another person died from the virus Saturday, bringing the official death toll to three.

• Beijing recorded its first cases of the virus. Two people in Daxing, a district in the south of the capital, tested positive for the pathogen, the district health commission said in a statement (link in Chinese). Both patients have a history of travel to Wuhan. They are being treated in quarantine and are in a stable condition, authorities said.

• The southern province of Guangdong confirmed that a 66-year-old man in the city of Shenzhen, which neighbors Hong Kong, had been diagnosed with the virus Sunday. He had also traveled to Wuhan in late December.

• Authorities in East China’s Zhejiang province said five people had been quarantined there since Friday after displaying symptoms of the disease (link in Chinese). The patients are awaiting diagnosis and remain in a stable condition, the provincial health commission said.

• A prominent virologist who helped identify the source of the deadly SARS coronavirus nearly two decades ago told Caixin that Wuhan’s spike in new cases “shows that the (new) virus can spread from person to person.” Guan Yi, who heads a laboratory for emerging infectious diseases at Hong Kong University’s School of Public Health, said that while the virus had seemingly not initially passed between people, the rise in cases over the past several weeks meant “we should no longer be playing word games about whether or not this constitutes human-to-human transmission.”

In 2002 and 2003, a SARS outbreak erupted in Hong Kong and southern China, killing hundreds.

• In a statement Monday, the China office of the World Health Organization (WHO) said the new cases reported over recent days were “not unexpected” and were the result of stepped up disease surveillance efforts. “Given travel patterns, it is possible there will be more new cases,” the U.N. agency said in a statement to Caixin, adding that as more cases are identified, the severity of the disease and how it is transmitted will become clearer.

“WHO urges countries to continue preparedness activities and continue sharing of information,” the statement said. “Speedy information sharing has already had a positive impact on the response.”

Sunday, Jan. 19

• China’s National Health Commission said it would seek to contain the virus, Reuters reported, amid fears that the impending Lunar New Year holiday season, during which millions of Chinese travel both domestically and internationally, could help it spread farther.

Friday, Jan. 17

• Thailand confirmed a second case of the virus, a 74-year-old Chinese woman from Wuhan, Reuters reported, citing the permanent secretary of the country’s health ministry. The country is not experiencing an outbreak of the virus, the permanent secretary stressed.

• Using the average detection window and international spread, an influential disease-modeling unit affiliated to Imperial College London estimated that 1,723 people in Wuhan may have contracted the virus, “substantially more” than the number so far reported by Chinese authorities.

• India issued travel advice to citizens visiting China, reminding people to observe good personal hygiene and monitor their health closely.

Thursday, Jan. 16

• Wuhan’s municipal health commission confirmed that a second person had died from pneumonia linked to the virus. The 69-year-old man, surnamed Xiong, died in the early hours of Wednesday morning. He had been treated for severe symptoms since Jan. 4, including extensive damage to multiple organs, heart muscle inflammation, abnormal kidney function, and suspected tuberculosis. http://wjw.wuhan.gov.cn/front/web/showDetail/2020011609057

• Japan said Thursday it had confirmed the first case of the virus in the country. The patient, a man in his 30s from Kanagawa prefecture in the Greater Tokyo region, tested positive after returning from Wuhan, the Japanese health ministry said (link in Japanese). The WHO said in a statement that global travel patterns increase the likelihood of further cases in other countries. 

• Singapore’s Ministry of Health said a 69-year-old man with pneumonia had been isolated for further assessment as a “precautionary measure,” bringing the country’s total number of suspected coronavirus cases to three. The man, a Singaporean citizen, had a history of travel to Wuhan but had not visited the seafood market at the center of the investigation. He is currently in a stable condition, the ministry said.

• Vietnam’s health ministry quarantined two Chinese people from Wuhan at Danang International Airport as part of efforts to prevent the virus spreading to the Southeast Asian nation, Bloomberg reported.

Wednesday, Jan. 15

• The U.S. State Department warned Americans in China about the outbreak after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a risk assessment of the virus.

• Wuhan’s municipal health commission confirmed that some samples taken from the seafood market at the center of the investigation had tested positive for the virus.

• The World Health Organization said that the Chinese woman diagnosed with the virus in Thailand regularly visited fresh food markets in Wuhan but had not been to the seafood market in question.

Ye Xueming, Wang Xintong, Geng Mingzhong, Sun Qian, Zhang Shulin, Xu Peng, Huang Shulun and Zhao Jinzhao contributed to this report.

Contact reporter Matthew Walsh (matthewwalsh@caixin.com) and editor Flynn Murphy (flynnmurphy@caixin.com)

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